Syrian man stuck in UAE prison limbo
Illustrative purposes (Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Ramirez)
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A Syrian businessman has been languishing in a UAE prison for five months, despite completing a short jail sentence. He says he’d rather stay locked up and die in the Emirates than be forced to return home.
Alla Samir Joabra, 29, was sentenced in October 2012 to three months followed by deportation for taking delivery of a stolen truck. While in prison his passport expired and efforts to obtain a new one have failed. He claims staff at the Syrian Embassy in Dubai have told him he is ‘wanted’ for military service by Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria.
He says he cannot acquire the paperwork that would allow him to renew his passport because his relatives were killed in a bomb attack in Syria, so he remains in prison limbo.
Speaking from Dubai Central Jail on Wednesday, Joabra told 7DAYS: “My mother and my brother are dead. I might as well die here than in the Syrian army. There seems to be no solution but to stay in jail forever.”
Joabra added: “If I am deported, the moment I land in Damascus I will be taken away by the authorities.”
Joabra added said: “I am in jail because someone sold me a truck. The police said the truck was stolen, which I did not know.”
A fellow inmate told 7DAYS: “Joabra’s mother, brother and sister-in-law, the only family he had, were all killed by the same bomb in their home town of Daraa in April when he was here in jail.”
All Syrian men are required to perform compulsory military service. That would involve fighting for Bashar Al Assad against rebels trying to overthrow the Syrian president. Military service can be avoided if the man is an only son, if he is at university or if he is a resident of another country.
However, paperwork from family in Syria has to be completed every year for four years of deferment and in the fifth, the man must pay US$15,000 to buy his way out of the service. That is something Joabra claims is impossible for him to do because his family is dead. The Syrian Embassy in Dubai was not available for comment on Wednesday.
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